Territoriality and territory

The concepts of territoriality and territory are discussed continuously and over a long period of time throughout the scientific fields in areas like (political) geography, international relations, and also anthropology or biology. As evident, the term can be studied from many different perspectives, so we need to specify our outlook on the issue in order to be able to present some form of conceptualization relevant for our study of the Islamist groups. First of all, in the following text, we deal with human territoriality as a subsection of the issue of territoriality. Second, we deal with political territoriality in the sense that we will deal with the uses of territory for political ends. This, however, does not disqualify us from studying economic and identity issues when being discussed in their relation toward the reaching of political goals and control over the space. This double specification enables us to look closer at the conceptualization at hand.

We begin our conceptual development with the work of R. Sack, who, throughout his work in the 1980s. developed an essential conceptual understanding of human territoriality as a broader term that is suitable as the beginning of our own conceptual work. For Sack, territoriality is an “attempt to affect, influence, or control actions and interactions (of people, things, and relationships) by asserting and attempting to enforce control over a geographic area" (Sack 1983, 55). In other words, territoriality is “the attempt by an individual or group (x) to influence, affect, or control objects, people, and relationships (y) by delimiting and asserting control over a geographic area" (Sack 1983, 56). Territoriality is, moreover, "primary geographical expression of social power" and a “geographic strategy to control people and things by controlling area" (Sack 1986, 2-3).

It is crucial to note that human territoriality is attempted by both individuals and groups at any scale - from a room to the globe. It is a strategy that classifies (at least partially) by area rather than by type - “ours” and "not ours” is defined by location and not type of object that is being controlled. It is the most effective strategy for enforcing control6 as it requires only one marker - boundary. Territoriality also serves one other purpose. It makes the relations between rulers and ruled impersonal - the tie is not of a person controlling another person, but rather an institution (even if personalized) controlling territory with everything and all inside. A territory is often perceived as neutral and acts as a container of things and events. Because territoriality is a human strategy and a social construct, new territories might be created to fulfill different functions, and the idea of socially empty places might be set up (Sack 1983, 56-60).

Sack was, nevertheless, by far not the only author to attempt to conceptualize territoriality as a political phenomenon. To name a few, J. Agnew defines territoriality as "the use of territory for political, social, and economic ends" (Agnew 2009, 6). A. Paasi presents territoriality as an attempt to distinguish between “us” and "them” that manifests itself in activities like control of migration or setting up of quotas and tariffs (Paasi 2009, 215-216). Territoriality can be conceptualized as a need, present on all levels of human identity, "to exert some degree of control over and to protect place and territory" (White 2000, 31). Territoriality can, furthermore, be understood as "a behavioral phenomenon associated with the organization of space into spheres of influence or clearly demarcated territories which are made distinctive and considered at least partially exclusive by their occupants or deflners" (Soja 1971,19). It has two components - delimitation of boundaries and behavior within them (Kahler and Walter 2006, 3). Territoriality is often a key element in the exercise of authority. It consists of control of spatial ordering and people in space by a combination of techniques and policies of classification, registration, and mapping. Territorializing strategies allow and disallow certain forms of land use, access, mobility, and differentiate access to resources (Sikor and Lund 2009, 14). E. Soja identifies three main ingredients in human group territoriality: (i) sense of spatial identity, (ii) sense of exclusiveness, and (iii) compartmentalization, or channeling of human interaction in space (Soja 1971,34).

Territoriality, as a human strategy of control based on the delimitation of a particular geographic area, must be complemented with an understanding of the term "territory.” Here we begin with the work of J. Gottmann. who dealt with the topic in detail. Gottmann provided us with a very precise conceptualization of territory that is worth quoting in length.

Territory is a portion of geographical space that coincides with the spatial extent of a government's jurisdiction. It is the physical container and support of the body politic organized under a governmental structure. It describes the spatial arena of the political system developed within a national state or a part thereof endowed with some autonomy. It also serves to describe the positions in the space of the various units participating in any system of international relations. We may, therefore, consider territory as an ideal link between space and politics. Since the territorial distribution of the various forms of political power has greatly shifted throughout history, it may also serve as a telling expression of relationships between time and politics.

(Gottmann 1975, 29)

A territory is "a geographical expression of both a social function and an institution rooted in the psychology of peoples (Gottmann 1973, 7).” A territory is a product of partitioning and organization and is limited but modifiable and is, by definition, a portion of geographical space - at its core is a defined portion of the surface of the Earth or any spatially definable area (Gottmann 1975, 30-31). Territory becomes politically relevant only when human activity is present (Gottmann 1973, 11) - territory results from a projection of labor into a given space

(Raffestin 2012, 126). The territory thus can be understood as involving a triangular relationship between a piece of land, a group of people living there, and political institutions governing those people (Miller 2012, 253). According to J. Agnew, territory, in its broadest sense, means both the organization and the exercise of power over blocs of space or organization of people and things into discrete areas through the uses of boundaries (Agnew 2009, 30). S. Elden distinguishes between two dominant definitions: (i) territory as a confined space (a container) under the control of a group of people and (ii) outcome of territoriality as a human behavior strategy (Elden 2010. 1). According to G. White, territory plays a significant role in law enforcement, as a provider of natural resources and as a cultural basis of nation, and the sense of territory is closely connected to other aspects of identity (White 2000, 22-35) - the feeling of identity is sometimes stronger among diasporas than the people living on the actual territory. This feeling was even strengthened by the influx of new technologies and the process of globalization that bring these diasporas, at least virtually, “closer” to their homeland (Kahler and Walter 2006, 9, 19).

Territory must also be distinguished from other terms related to the spatial characterization of human activity. S. Elden distinguishes between land, terrain, and territory. Land is a scarce resource whose possession is one of the determinants of power. It holds a political-economic relation. Terrain is space as a political category. It needs to be owned, distributed, mapped, calculated, bordered, and controlled. It is thus a space with strategic, military, and political sense. It is of military significance. Finally, territory is a political technology. It comprises techniques for measuring land and controlling space. It combines the previous two senses of spatial understanding (Elden 2010). M. Moore, furthermore, distinguishes between "land” as a portion of the Earth's surface that is not covered by water and “territory” as a political concept referring to the geographical domain of a political entity (Moore 2015, 15). As evident, territory is filled with power relations and holds identity-related dimensions (Verweijen and Vlassenroot 2015, 193). According to Paasi, a territory holds four roles:

  • (i) social (it is collectively inhabited);
  • (ii) political (presence of group struggle to establish, maintain, and enlarge it);
  • (iii) cultural (it lies at the core of many collective memories and acts as a medium for ideological struggles);
  • (iv) cognitive (it subjectifies cultural, political, and social borders and is located at the core of identity) (Paasi 2009, 216).

A territory is usually demarcated by territorial markers, often with contradictory spaces and with different structuring effects on access and property (Sikor and Lund 2009,14). We may understand territory as a delimited geographic space that is filled with power relations, economic activity, and/or identity importance for a population inhabiting it or identifying itself with it. Territory as a geographical unit and a social construct lies at the core of the process of territoriality that works with the geographical delimitation of relations and objects.

Territory and territoriality also play a significant role in the formation and namre of conflicts. Territorial conflicts are usually more prone toward escalation into the violent part of the spectrum and are more difficult to resolve (Kahler and Walter 2006, 2). This comes as a result of the feeling of attachment toward territory by different ethnic groups. This attachment to the history and the symbolic stakes is often understood as a legitimization of the rights for the territory and may lead to escalation (Toft 2003, 19-23; Kahler and Walter 2006, 4). Attachment to the homeland territories based on historical myths and events from history holds immense importance in the process of self-determination (Newman 2006, 96). In turn, this increases the conflict potential in case of a (perceived) threat to such a territory. The logic of territoriality thus forces people to defend their borders, and so the territorial issues are the most dangerous disagreements that any political actor may face (Vasquez 1995, 284-290). This is also reflected in the namre of internal conflicts, as many of them have territorial stakes (Kahler and Walter 2006, 13). The presence of territorial stakes increases the possibility of conflict turning violent. While the number of non-territorial conflicts is higher than the number of territorial conflicts, territorial conflicts have a much higher level of lethality (Gartzke 2006, 179).

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